Just as a consensus was emerging that Republicans would, for the time being at least, play down their reaction to the Obama administration’s decision to no longer defend the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act in court, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a likely 2012 GOP presidential candidate, has stoked the issue — big time.
According to TheHill.com, the Georgia Republican on February 25 said, “It is clearly a dereliction of duty and is a violation of his constitutional oath,” when asked to respond to President Barack Obama's new position on how to handle DOMA, a law whose repeal he favors.
The administration view was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder two days earlier, and was based on the Justice Department’s conclusion that classifications in law based on sexual orientation should be held to a heightened scrutiny standard of judicial review, under which, DOJ said, DOMA would be found unconstitutional.
Speculating on what the reaction would be if a President Sarah Palin decided not to defend judicial precedent in favor of a woman’s right to choose, Gingrich told Newsmax magazine, “Imagine that she had announced that Roe v. Wade in her judgment was unconstitutional and therefore the United States government would no longer protect anyone’s right to have an abortion because she personally had decided it should be changed. The news media would have gone crazy. The New York Times would have demanded her impeachment.”
Asked by the magazine whether the administration’s action warranted President Barack Obama’s impeachment, the former speaker, who oversaw the impeachment of the last Democratic president, responded, “I think that's something you get into much later.”
Pundits, including the New York Times, have noted in recent days the muted response of other leading Republicans. Palin, the Times pointed out, has so far been silent, as has former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. A spokesperson for Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said the Hoosier chief executive “has no plans” to comment, while former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said merely he was “disappointed.”
Social conservative Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, said the Obama administration’s response was “utterly inexplicable.”
While right-wing groups, especially those battling marriage equality, were predictably apoplectic about Holder’s announcement, the Times quoted Mark McKinnon, who worked with the 2004 Bush reelection campaign when it ginned up numerous state anti-gay marriage ballot measures to turn out conservative voters, saying, “The wedge has lost its edge.”